COORDINATES GHANA: The "No Expectations" Destination

September 16, 2016

by Joy Martin
COORDINATES GHANA: The "No Expectations" Destination

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Destination Name: Ghana, West Africa

Common Nickname: "Africa for Beginners" 


Ghana is tucked into the armpit of the African continent on the northern edge of the Gulf of Guinea. Cote d'Ivoire serves as the western border, with Burkina Faso shaping the north/northwest border and Togo to the east. Every major European airline flies to Kotoka International Airport in Accra, while direct flights depart from the US East Coast. Visas are required, and a single-entry three-month visa costs $60 USD.  

Primary active pursuits

From hiking to the top of Ghana's highest point to canoeing through mangrove forests along the Gold Coast, Ghana offers adventure aplenty – so long as you're open to a new definition of adventure. There are no extreme adrenaline-infused pursuits (unless you count running from foam-mouthed dogs), so it's a build-your-own-action itinerary, piecing together surfing, jungle trekking, wildlife viewing, canopy walking and dancing – in Ghana, it’s a full-body workout. 

Key Microdestinations

National parks: There are 21 protected areas in Ghana, including seven national parks. Each one is a distinctive representation of savanna, rainforests, or wetlands. Wildlife sightings are guaranteed, and birders will rejoice. Hippos in Bui, monkeys and elephants in Kakum, and safari-style excursions in Mole are just a few isolated pockets of conservation in Ghana. 

High point: Especially in lowland countries, it's nice to get high for a different perspective. As with all things Ghanaian, a hike up Mount Afadjato is a quirky trek that takes roughly two-hours roundtrip up a steep hillside to 2,904 feet. At the summit, peak baggers will note that there is yet still a higher mountain roughly three-kilometers to the east. Your guide (might be the taxi driver who brought you to the base of this rural hike) will tell you that the other big mountain (Aduadu) is in fact in Togo, so don't be dismayed.     

Waterfalls: After a hike up Afadjato, a refreshing dip at West Africa's highest waterfall, the 1,000-foot Wli Falls, is a must. A short hike to the lower falls will suffice, or you can opt for a strenuous trek to the top of the falls for solitude.

Sea level: Surf swells at Busua and Langma can bring in waves of four to seven feet between April to October. Book a bungalow, setup a tent or splurge at one of the few "four"-star hotels in Busua. Surf camps and instructors can set you up with beta and instruction. Jet skis are also an option for those wanting a motorized adventure. Watch out for sharks.

Health & Safety

As one of Africa's safest countries, vaccinations and common sense should suffice for a splendid holiday. Required vaccines include yellow fever, hepatitis A & B, typhoid, rabies, and polio. As well, bring malaria pills – and don't forget to take them. Purchase bottled water, don't eat the lettuce, avoid contaminated packages and broken-skinned fruit, and wash your hands. Be smart, beware of strong ocean currents, and keep an eye on your belongings.   

Best Season

Expect hot, sunny and humid weather no matter the time of year you visit. As with most tropical climates, there are two rainy seasons in Ghana: April to June and September to November. The most popular time for travelers is July and August, with August and September being prime festival season. December to April is lovely. 

Other Recreational and Cultural Gems

A visit to Ghana is not complete until you've visited the dungeons of Cape Coast Castle. An hour tour and museum introduce you to the slave trade's dark history at this imposing fortress. Gorgeous ocean views from the Door of No Return offer stark contrast to a horrifying past. On a lighter note, take advantage of Ghana's endless supply of talented drummers and dancers, and don't be surprised when you develop a taste for Highlife, Ghana's signature pop music.   

Lodging and Dining Summary

For activities in Eastern Ghana, Wli Water Heights for $16 USD/night is a good place to start or, for the budget traveler, Ras Madeskos' for $2 USD. If you're headed north, try The Green Ranch, starting at $15 USD for room and board, with horseback riding as optional add-ons. For the Gold Coast, accommodations range from camping at Ezile Bay for $6 USD/night to beach bungalows for $12 USD/night to "four"-star hotel, Busua Beach Resort, for $150 USD. For meals, Western eateries abound in Accra, but street food is delicious, found everywhere, and super cheap. Fresh mango and dishes like red-red, fufu, kelewele, plantain chips, and groundnut soup are staples, and there's nothing like a good ole fashioned fried egg sandwich. For libations, enjoy Star beer for less than a buck and Akpeteshie (distilled palm wine) for special occasions with locals. Transportation is very accessible in Ghana and ranges from luxury buses with air conditioning to colorful minibuses called tro-tros. These depart whenever they're full and operate on all main routes.

Best Single Reason to Visit

The adventure of surprise. As one of Africa's greatest success stories, Ghana pulses with the energy of a freshly-democratized nation. With a backdrop of national parks, game reserves, lively cities, and white-sand beaches, Ghanaians represent a number of landscapes, music, art, cuisine and cultures. Any trip to Africa is a lesson in holding loosely to expectations, and Ghana is no exception. In a land where the journey truly is the destination, relax, and let the warm, welcoming spirit of the Ghanaian people guide your path on this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Getting Equipped

Besides Lonely Planet's West Africa guidebook, checkout Philip Briggs' Ghana Fourth Bradt Travel Guide and Three Cheers for Ghana! by Robert Peprah-Gyamfi. Since this is one of the easiest African countries to travel in, prepare to meet many other ' oburonis' (foreigners) when you get there, who will be excited to share their advice and recommendations for the best places to eat, stay and play.


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